T&D World Magazine

Transmission Planning Process and Opportunities for Utility-Scale Solar Engagement within the Western Electricity Coordinating Council

Market barriers unrelated to technology often limit the expansion of utility-scale solar power, even in areas with exceptional resource potential. Many of these non-technical barriers have to do with policy, regulation, and planning, and hardly ever do they resolve themselves in a timely fashion. In most cases, pre-emptive intervention by interested stakeholders is the easiest way to remove/address such barriers, but it requires knowing how to navigate the institutional waters of the relevant agencies and boards.

This report is a primer for solar developers who wish to engage directly in expediting the regulatory process and removing market barriers related to policy and planning. It focuses on the Western Interconnection (WI), primarily because the quality of solar resources in the Southwest makes utility-scale concentrating solar power (CSP) and photovoltaics (PV) economically feasible, and because the relevant institutions have evolved in a way that has opened up opportunities for removing non-technical market barriers. Developers will find in this report a high-level field manual to identify the venues for mitigating and possibly eliminating systemic market obstacles and ensuring that the economic playing field is reasonably level.

Project-specific issues such as siting for transmission and generation resources are beyond the scope of this report. Instead, the aim is to examine issues that pervasively affect all utility-scale PV and CSP in the region regardless of where the project may be. While the focus is on the WI, many of the institutions described here also have their counterparts in the Eastern and the Texas interconnections.
Specifically, this report suggests a number of critical engagement points relating to generation and transmission planning. Taking full advantage of these engagement points demands that solar developers and other interested parties understand:

  • The importance of sharing appropriate solar resource cost and operational performance data for the modeling and planning efforts in order to ensure the resource is modeled accurately and therefore is not biased against, or handicapped, when compared to other generation resources1;
  • How the industry operates in the Western Interconnection when planning and studying regional generation resources and transmission systems;
  • How the solar industry participates in WECC today, who represents the solar industry, and how to interact with WECC in order to maximize benefits given limited amounts of budget and time; and
  • The positive role the industry could play in the legislative and regulatory arena to best advocate for the industry at the federal, regional, and local level....(read more...)
TAGS: Transmission
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